London: Tyson Gay shook the chill out of a packed Crystal Palace crowd with a hugely impressive season-leading 9.78 seconds 100 metres victory on Friday despite a groin injury that could end his season prematurely.
With Usain Bolt out for the rest of the season with a back problem and Asafa Powell withdrawing on Thursday from the two-day Diamond League meet with back and hamstring problems, the blue riband event may be robbed of its three biggest draws.
Two Diamond League events remain -- Zurich on Aug. 19 and Brussels on Aug. 27, when all three had been scheduled to race in a rare three-way showdown.
Instead it seems likely all three will spend the next few weeks in the treatment room to ensure no long-term damage ahead of the 2011 world championship season and 2012 Olympic year.
Gay could not have asked for a better way to sign off.
The American, still on a high from last week’s 9.84 seconds victory over Jamaica’s world record holder Bolt in Stockholm, needed the first 70 metres of his heat to find a decent rhythm before hitting top speed to win it in 10.02.
When he came back to the still-damp track for the meeting finale with the mercury falling and the sell-out crowd huddling together for warmth few could have expected anything special.
However, having stumbled out of the blocks in the heats, Gay blasted away in the final and was clear of a strong field of Olympic and world medallists within 20 metres.
He drove on superbly and, despite the cold and a negative headwind, won in 9.78, bettering the 2010 best of 9.82 run by Powell and Bolt, and Gay’s own best of 9.84 in Stockholm.
It was also a meeting record for Crystal Palace.
“I wasn’t expecting to go that fast in these conditions but I knew I was in good shape and was going to go fast. I was hobbling a bit at the end -- my groin is a little sore but I’m sure it’s OK,” said Gay, who had groin surgery last year and was limping heavily as he spoke to reporters after the race.
“I wasn’t necessarily sending a message to Asafa and Usain, I was just running my own race. I think there’s more to come.
“It’s great to be on top of the world, that’s important to me. This is not the best shape I’ve ever been in because I’m still dealing with a few little injuries.
“My coach said that I can run 9.7 in any conditions and I think I showed that tonight,” he added.
Gay said he was aware of the injury before the race but was determined not to let it undermine his performance.
“I just run with heart and determination,” he told Reuters. “I wanted to send the fans home with something after they waited out all night in the cold and rain.”
Asked if he thought he would race again this season, he said: “I don’t know, I’ve got to fix my groin.”
In the absence of Bolt and Powell, Yohan Blake flew the flag for Jamaica by taking second place in a personal best of 9.89, with 2008 Olympic silver medallist Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago third in 10.05.